Building a Tree Ordinance Working Group

The main purpose of your tree ordinance working group is to provide you with input on the direction and content of your tree ordinance.  You should include representatives from groups that will benefit from the ordinance, that will be required to comply with its provisions, and that will otherwise be substantially impacted by it.

Include members that will be active in gathering, consolidating and providing input from major constituencies.  Representatives from the following groups or persons that fill important roles in the community and in tree management should be considered for tree ordinance working group membership:

  • City department staff (public works, traffic, engineering, parks and recreation, community development, planning, etc.)
  • Local arborist, urban or consulting forester
  • Forest products industry representative
  • Tree or environmental board member
  • County Extension Agent
  • Georgia Forestry Commission Forester
  • City council members or county commissioners
  • Landscape architects, environmental engineers, and other allied professionals
  • Developers, builders, and construction contractors
  • Realtors
  • Residential property owners, neighborhood or homeowner association representatives
  • Local business association representatives
  • Commercial property owners
  • Garden Club members
  • Environmental agencies representatives
  • Non-profit organization representatives

Regardless of who else you select as members of your working group, it is essential that you include staff, planning commission members, and tree board members who will have the authority to approve, adopt and implement the new tree ordinance.  If these individuals do not sit on the group or attend the meetings, make sure that you provide them with regular updates and takes the opportunity to discuss the tree ordinance with them when you can.

Interested persons or groups not specifically invited as working group members can be kept up-to-date about meeting proceedings and public input sessions through e-mails or Facebook page updates.

To determine how many members you should have consider how many people you can respectfully listen to and comfortably accommodate at each meeting.  If your meetings take too long, you may lose some members.  If they are too short, you may also lose members who feel that adequate time and consideration was not given to their input.

Think about how much time you want each member to commit to meetings and other project activities.  You may want to include field trips to sites for specific purposes to gather facts and observe real-life tree and site conditions.  Estimate how many meetings you will have with your working group.  Ask each potential member if they have time available to devote to meetings and work outside of meetings.


Get consensus from your working group members on the best days, times and dates to allow for the most attendance possible.

Make sure that you have an agenda for each of these meetings.  Include each topic that will be discussed, along with a limit on the amount of for discussion.   Topics that require further discussion, or that need further research, can be addressed at future meetings.

Trees evoke considerable passion in people, so plan for a process that will allow individuals to express that passion, while still giving other members the opportunity to express their opinions.  At each meeting review this process and also remind members of other opportunities available for receiving input, such as e-mail.


It should be the responsibility of each of the working group members to attend the meetings, bring to the meeting input they’ve gathered from the groups they represent, and participate in the discussion.

Members should expect to spend some time between meetings reading through assessment summaries, tree care and benefit information, examples of tree ordinance from other communities, and drafts of the new tree ordinance.  Then, they should be willing to bring their comments, questions and suggestions for revisions to discuss at the meetings.


The working group should put together a tentative schedule for the development, adoption, and implementation of the new tree ordinance.  This schedule should help to keep the development process moving forward.  It is likely that you will need to make adjustments in the schedule as you work through the process.  A revised schedule should be developed and distributed when necessary.

Begin developing your schedule by considering any specific future events that might be driving the ordinance development, such as the development of a unified development ordinance or code (UDO, UDC) or application deadline for Tree City USA status.  Government officials may have requested that they receive the new or revised ordinance for voting on by a certain deadline.

If expressed deadlines or future events are a consideration, develop your schedule by working backwards from these deadlines or events.

Determine the date of the city council or county commission meeting at which a final vote will be held on the ordinance, and when the first vote will be held.  If government regulations state that your draft must be available to officials or the public for a specific amount of time prior to that first vote, include that time in your schedule.

Consider how many public meetings you will have and the amount of time needed to write the draft and make revisions between these meetings to get your final draft ready for the city council or county commission voting meeting.

Consider the time it will take to draft the ordinance.  And remember, prior to the drafting of the ordinance, considerable time will be needed to assess current conditions, develop a vision and goals, and research potential tree ordinance components.

Allow adequate time for all of these activities.  Make sure your timetable is reasonable and not overly optimistic.